Category Archives: Mitotane

2014 is MY year

Words for the New Year

Words for the New Year

My wild and fearless daughter, Joy, has challenged her blog (Chakras in the Suburbs) followers to choose a word for 2014 in lieu of setting any New Year’s resolutions. I’ve been pondering my options for a few days now, especially in light of the fact that I already have failed to keep at least one of my New Year’s resolutions—to post on my blog on a regular basis.

A lot has happened since I last posted. I’m in Virginia, for starters. The polar vortex has come and gone–thank goodness. I’ll soon start the final leg of my journey to Arizona. To warmer temperatures-thank goodness. Though I hate to leave my granddaughters after two short weeks, I am excited about visiting Charleston, the Andersonville prison, New Orleans, San Antonio, and El Paso.

Joy chose two words. I’m not certain I can limit myself this year to just two—so many come to mind.

Gratitude: because I am over a year cancer-free and alive and able to enjoy my family, friends, and life. (Even with the problems the mitotane creates.)

Creativity: because I will write this year. Lots and lots of words.

Focus: because I will live in the here and now of whatever I am doing. Drinking that first cup of coffee in the morning. Listening to my granddaughter read her book at bedtime. Riding eight hours a day in the car until we stop for the night on our trip to Arizona…..what’s eight hours anyway when it took us 15 to get to Virginia?

Embrace: because I will open my arms and welcome whatever comes my way—new situations, new people, new feelings.

Fun: because I deserve it. Because I’ve never been very good at it—even with my best friend Judy’s prodding.

Love: because I will work at doing a better job of opening my heart to those who are close to me. For where would I be without them?

Charity: because, even with my ACC, I have so much more in my life than so many others. Compassion, tolerance, kindness, empathy, all fall within this category. Wow! This is definitely going to be the hardest word for me to work on.

Maybe making resolutions is the easy way out after all……

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Betsy Ross Reincarnated??

One year ago today was a momentous day for me–I was operated on for adrenal cortical cancer. My CT scan this October was stable. I met with my oncologist yesterday and my endocrinologist on Monday and everything appears to be fine. I guess that means I am one year with no evidence of disease (NED)!

The only issue is that damn mitotane that I am taking to try and keep any possible microscopic cancer cells from growing. It’s nasty stuff! And the long-term side effects are of major concern. But I’ve reconciled myself to the mitotane being the lesser of two evils.

Unfortunately, I don’t really know if the mitotane is working. It is effective in only 20-30% of those who subject themselves to it. Would I still be NED at this point without taking the mitotane? If only there were more than 350-500 new ACC patients a year, if only ACC were not an ultra-rare cancer…yet given all that, there is ongoing research for new treatments, for which I am extremely grateful.

And with Thanksgiving a week from today, it’s a good time to think about everything I am thankful for. (Why wait for a holiday to do that?) More on that to come….

Betsy Ross

Betsy Ross

To celebrate my one-year anniversary, I have spent the morning doing something just for me. I submitted my initial contact to the Daughters of the American Revolution. My fourth great-grandfather, Edmund Welch, served in the Revolutionary War. He was in the battle of Lexington/Concord on April 19, 1775, the battle that started the war, and served for various periods of time after that. I know this not from ancestry.com but from a genealogy book that has been in the family for years. This is a fact I seem to have missed all of these years yet I have always felt an affinity for the Revolutionary War (even thinking at one point that I was Betsy Ross reincarnated—really!). I know the process for being accepted into the DAR requires a lot of work so it may take me some time to complete it. I am hopeful that the fact that the genealogy book is on file in the library of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Washington, D.C. will expedite the process.

Update on NaNoWriMo: I don’t think I will hit 50,000 words by the end of the month as I am currently at just under 10,000. I have no explanation or excuses unless laziness qualifies….

Perfection Paralysis

I woke up this morning dreaming about Anne. Just like most dreams, two hours later I have no idea what it was about. But I see it as a good sign—I am immersing myself in Anne’s life, which can only help me with my novel.

In reality, I don’t need more plot ideas or character background. I have all of that. What I am lacking is the motivation to sit down and write. “Seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” Steve threatened this morning to make me stay at Joy’s cabin until I finish the novel. He will come and visit me but I won’t be allowed to leave!

As though in 39 years of marriage he has ever been able to “make” me do something. He asked how close to completion is the novel? 90%? I must have really fooled him about the progress I have been making on the book. I only wish I were at 90%…or even 50%.

My excuse when I was working was that I didn’t have time to write. So what’s my excuse now that I am retired? It’s the same one that has always been the source of my procrastination—perfection paralysis.

When I was working on my Alex novel, I wrote a diary that was not going to be part of the book. Its purpose was to provide backstory, to help me understand how Alex got to where she is. The patient members of my writing group were the only intended audience so (no offense) I wasn’t plagued by the need for perfection. The ideas flowed. I looked forward to writing at the end of my work day.

Now I don’t work. And yet I don’t write any more than I did when I had a job—maybe less. Time to fix that. For, unlike Mick Jagger who just turned 70, I don’t have a career spanning 50 years to look forward to. How fair is it that someone who has lived his lifestyle is now 70 and healthy, (even the epitome of “70 is the new 50”) when I, with my (almost) squeaky clean life, am diagnosed with adrenal cancer at 57?

There is good news along the way. According to an ultrasound last week, I have a “good-looking” thyroid. And the cyst on it is just a cyst. Nothing to worry about—50% of people have them. I’ve also dropped my mitotane consumption (once again) from 5 to 4 pills a day in an effort to lessen the side effects.

With the good comes the bad. Next week I visit the dermatologist because of a suspicious mole or two. Wouldn’t be much of a concern if not for the two melanomas I had removed back in 2002. The appointment with the dermatology surgeon for the following week is already scheduled. Hoping that it needs to be cancelled…..

Nothing to worry about

Woke up at 4:30 this morning to check my iPhone for the email from DHMC letting me know that I have test results available. It was there and suddenly I was wide awake. So was Steve.

Sure enough, the CT scan report supports what my oncologist said—nothing to worry about–but I wasn’t reassured until I saw it in writing. Does this mean I don’t have confidence in my oncologist? Or am I just a pessimist, expecting the “other shoe to drop”?

Everyone says I have such a positive attitude. I try. Really, I do.

But I’m more of a realist than an optimist. And the prognosis for ACC is “grim.” “Dismal.” If you believe the medical journal articles.

DDT use in residential areas was banned on November 20, 1969, one day and 43 years before my surgery. Yet twice a day I take mitotane, a DDT derivative. As of today I am still Stage 2. And the mitotane is supposed to keep me there. So I am committed to ingesting it for as long as I can. Regardless of the side effects.

But all chemotherapy is poison so I don’t suppose I’m any more special than the thousands of other people who take it every day.

I feel as though my life has been put on hold since my CT scan last week. I’ve heard other cancer patients say their lives are broken down into the time spans between scans.

In the last week I haven’t worked on my novel except to change Lexi Rae’s name to Poppy. And in order to firm up Poppy’s age, I had to research the hippie movement. (If you want to know the connection, you’ll just have to read the novel. Once I finish it….) And that was where I learned the date that DDT was banned.

Hard to believe that I was just months away from meeting my husband. This February we will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. And celebrate it we will with a trip to Hawaii. We’re planning on flying from Arizona to Hawaii then taking a seven-day cruise around the islands. That’s the plan today….but we’re learning to go with the flow….

 

Back to Normal

Back to my regular schedule with Steve at work after a two week vacation (his first ever!) and the girls and families returned safely to Arizona and Virginia. Steve’s brother and his wife are staying at the cabin a while longer but four of their daughters and families have headed home to PA and Maryland. As wonderful as it is having them all here it’s such a whirlwind that I can’t help but feel a sense of relief now that it’s over. I imagine they all feel the same way.

It’s hard for me not to wonder if this will be the last 4th of July that I share with everyone. My daughter the PA chastises me when I even dare to voice such an idea. She says I need to accept that the surgery cured me—I no longer have ACC. And why do I take mitotane with all of its side effects she asks. She sounds like my oncologist.

There isn’t proof that a regimen of mitotane for Stage 2 ACC patients is beneficial. But the experts at the University of Michigan that I have decided to rely upon recommend it for three years.

So I am heeding their advice despite the spells of vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea that I experience, one of which I had over the holiday. I thought it was self-induced as I couldn’t restrain myself from eating the typical patriotic fare: hot dogs, macaroni salad, cole slaw, chili, chips and dip (instead of my usual Campbell’s chicken noodle soup and pumpernickel with cream cheese). And don’t forget the s’mores.  But who could resist those?

Turns out what I ate may not have caused it. My latest mitotane reading put me in the toxic zone so I am now on a mitotane vacation for a week!! And then I get to reduce my dosage by two pills a day. Anxious to see the impact on how I feel.

Eleanor from my writing group emailed me, asking how my writing was going before she acknowledged that with all of my family around I probably hadn’t done any. It’s heartening to have others come up with excuses for me, saving me the effort. My own excuse is that I have projects, too numerous to list, to catch up on. Since I’m not working, I should still have a block of time that I can devote to writing.

Yet which of my in-process writings will I work on? Wouldn’t it be nice to pick one and finish it?              

Turkey Dreams

Last night my first eight “testing the waters” blog entries were critiqued by my writing group. Their comments were encouraging but I can’t help wondering if it is sympathy due to my cancer… self-doubt always trumps being able to graciously accept compliments. John distributed samples of blog postings, which I read when I got home. Some were truly atrocious. I am confident I can produce something worth reading yet will my blog become my focus, taking time away from my “real” writing? I feel (hope?) that the blog will more likely prime the pump, dragging me to my laptop, away from my beloved HGTV. Yet this morning I am struggling with this post and only CNN is on with the volume down to 1.

thanksgivingdinner

I awoke this morning to a dream of a turkey dinner being prepared for me, Thanksgiving I think, and the cook was heating up the package of squash that I have kept secured in my freezer for months, not for a turkey dinner but in case I wanted to make squash soup.

 

Who am I kidding?

I have prepared so few meals since my surgery that it is more likely the squash will be heated up as is and eaten with a grinder from Village Pizza than that it will be transformed into an appetizing soup. I am certain the dream arose from our discussion last night about my post pitying my family for having to eat Thanksgiving dinner in the hospital cafeteria. It’s too early in the morning to be talking turkey—I haven’t had my raisin toast yet or my yummy mitotane/hydrocortisone/ondansetron/metoprolol/pantoprazole/loratidine dessert! Remember, magic resides in those pills.

Dow has dropped 353 points over the past two days. Ouch. Now that I am retired this means a heck of a lot more than it did when I was still working.

James Gandolfini dropped dead in Italy yesterday. Apparent heart attack. I, at least, am forewarned. A young woman on the ACC Compassion site has died. She was forewarned. I hope she was able to take advantage of her remaining time to squeeze in a full life, albeit condensed. Not likely if she was undergoing treatment.

Quality of life and all that.

Excuses

Managed to get through the worst part of the day—taking my morning medicine, all 13 pills. I know there are those who take more pills than that but I used to take only three: one for my acid reflux, one for my high blood pressure, and one for my seasonal allergies. Still, those extra ten are magic and I try not to forget that.

It’s Father’s Day and Steve has gone golfing, his usual game at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday. It’s supposed to be my time to write. So far I have watched CNN, some HGTV, and back to CNN for Sonjay Gupta, then read the HGTV magazine, taken my medicine, texted Jesse, and now DIY is playing in the background as I finally sit down to write.

Are you getting tired of my excuses yet?

I am.

While I was painting the guest bedroom yesterday, I had some great ideas about my book (“Anne”). Unfortunately I couldn’t just put down the paint brush and dash to the laptop to get them recorded but that is exactly what I should have done as today they are just sort of vague but there’s enough of them left to work with. Except I just got another text from Jesse and she and the kids are on their way over so we can go to breakfast….Interesting that we are going out to a Father’s Day breakfast without either of the fathers…oh, and that I have already eaten a glazed donut and two pieces of raisin toast.

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